Q&A with Patrick Kaleta

By Glen Jackson

Patrick Kaleta has been a steady producer through five seasons with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and 2005-06 was no different as he scored 51 points in 68 games and also led the team with a +20 rating. In the 2006 OHL playoff run, he increased his productivity and was tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 18 points in 19 games, as well as being a +8. Kaleta is a physically dominating player who has found a spark of finesse in his game during this his contract year which should prove attractive to the Buffalo Sabres.

Hockey’s Future caught up with Kaleta this week at the MasterCard Memorial Cup following practice the day after the Petes defeated the Quebec Remparts 3-2 in the opening game of the tournament.

HF: You grew up near Buffalo and the Sabres ended up drafting you, how was that?

PK: I grew up being a Sabres fan and it’s always been my dream to get drafted and play there so when I got the phone call from the Sabres that they had drafted me it was just a tremendous feeling. Like a dream come true pretty much, and now my goal is to try to sign and get there.

HF: Have you had talks with them at all this year? Have they contacted you about your game or anything like that?

PK: I’ve talked to them a couple of times throughout the year. Nothing major, but just keeping in contact. We’ve talked a lot about the Sabres and how they’re doing and just talking to them and seeing what was up.

HF: Hoping for a championship for yourself and for the Sabres I imagine?

PK: (laughing) Oh yeah, the Memorial Cup’s a huge thing and we’re gunning for that and the Sabres are going for the Stanley Cup too so I’ll be watching them on my off days.

HF: So about last night, how do you feel you played individually and as a team?

PK: Individually I didn’t play my best game. I was a little bit nervous, a little bit anxious but that’s behind me now and I’m getting ready for the next game. As a team we played alright. We played good enough to win and we know we have to get a lot better than what we played last night. Our goaltender [David Shantz (FLA)] played awesome and hopefully that continues but as a whole I think we need to get a little bit better.

HF: And as for yourself, you’re used for power play only or some penalty killing as well?

PK: Not really, no. Power play [only]. The penalty killers we have are pretty good with Daniel Ryder (CAL), Liam Reddox (EDM), Jordan Staal, Jamie Tardiff, even Steve Downie (PHI) thrown out there sometimes, so I’ve got to learn to take my role and when I’m called upon, just go out there and give it what I’ve got.

HF: What is your role now compared to a few years ago in junior?

PK: A few years ago when I came into the league I was just basically a body checker. No one really knew who I was so it was a bit easier to throw some big hits. As I’ve grown up I’ve tried to develop my game, try to hit the score sheet a bit more, be a leader on and off the ice, and still continue to throw those hits to get the momentum to swing our way.

HF: What would you say are your No. 1 and 2 strengths as a player?

PK: My No. 1 thing I’d say would be my hitting obviously. If I can get a guy I’ll try to get him good. Second thing, I don’t really know (laughing). Just trying to work upon everything, getting into the corners. I’d say maybe my forechecking ability. I get in there, get in the corners and I’m not afraid to muck it up a little bit.

HF: Your stick handling and poise looked pretty good yesterday, I’m surprised to hear that you were nervous. You looked pretty calm out there.

PK: You know you can just feel sometimes, the little things in your legs and stuff like that. You can just tell it’s nerves, but once that first game was over I felt fine, a lot better.

HF: Biggest game for you thus far in your career.

PK: Oh yeah.

HF: What about for weaknesses, you said you’re trying to develop your all around game but is there anything you’re going to focus on this offseason?

PK: Strength. Obviously you’ve got to keep that up to par to get up there with those guys. I’m going to keep working on my shot and stickhandling and things like that. Just basically work out and just try to keep rolling with the punches.

HF: You’ve been with the Petes your entire OHL career, how do you find Dick Todd as a coach, a mentor, and leader?

PK: He’s a great coach. I’ve had talks with him throughout the year, whether it’s to settle down or to learn something. I felt he’s brought my game around. He’s taught me how to play and how to control everything. As you see, he’s a bit of a relaxed guy and he’ll talk to you and tell you what needs to be done, so I find him to be an awesome mentor and coach.

HF: And finally, do you have a favorite player, favorite Sabres player maybe, or someone you model your game after?

PK: Oh yeah, I try to role model myself after Mike Peca. I wear #27 because he’s been my favorite player growing up so I try to be like him. He’s not a one-dimensional player, he can do anything whether it’s penalty kill, power play, hit, or whatever, so I try to be like him.

HF: So you’re trying to be a well-rounded player like he was for the Sabres one day?

PK: Yes, that’s my goal.

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